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Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, at Arctic Refuge Action Day
Rabbi Saperstein gave a speech today at Arctic Refuge Action Day noting, "Americans are burdened by high energy costs and an unhealthy dependence on foreign oil. Drilling in the Arctic, however, is not a solution."

Washington, DC
September 20, 2005

Jewish tradition teaches, “Be mindful that you do not spoil and destroy [God’s] world—for if you spoil it, there is no one after you to repair it.”  No one after you to repair it.  What’s done is done, and cannot be undone.

Ninety-five percent of Alaska’s vast North Slope has been opened up for oil exploration.  Only five percent of this coastal plain has been left unmolested—the five percent belonging to the Arctic Refuge.  The Refuge represents some of the last untrammeled wilderness in America. It is a symbol of our compact with future generations, a symbol of our commitment to God’s creation.  And if we allow the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be spoiled, that damage will not be easily undone.

Americans are burdened by high energy costs and an unhealthy dependence on foreign oil.  Drilling in the Arctic, however, is not a solution.  In Genesis it is written that humans have an obligation both to till the land and to protect it.  We need to take this same balanced approach in addressing our energy needs.  Studies show that drilling in the Arctic will have no overall effect on energy prices, and will have only a negligible effect on our dependence on foreign oil.  Neglecting our long-term energy needs and neglecting our planet, all for a quick fix of petroleum —this is morally unjustifiable.

There are other solutions that are smarter, safer, and less damaging to wildlife, people and habitats.  Conservation, renewable energy, and increased fuel economy standards would do far more to wean us off of foreign oil than drilling in the Arctic Refuge ever could.

Yet congressional leaders are preparing to include wording into next month’s budget reconciliation bill that will allow drilling in the Arctic to go forward.  They are trying to achieve in the backrooms what they can not achieve out in the open.  But this maneuver must not succeed.  We stand here today in this public to bring the bright light not only of the sun, but of public scrutiny to this effort.  We stand here today to say no to destroying this wilderness and yes to true energy independence that will sustain rather than degrade our environment.

In the end, the decision to drill in the Arctic Refuge is not just a bad idea economically, not just an awful idea environmentally—it also represents a failure of conscience on the part of our leaders.  And that is why we are here today outside the Capitol—To raise our voices and demand of Congress: Reject the current reconciliation package and its calls for drilling.  Bring the debate over drilling back out into the open.  And respect your obligations: to your constituents, to your faith, to your descendants, and to creation.


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